Willy Street Blog @ “2”

Neighborhood blog to continue hyper-focus

What do you give the neighborhood that has everything? Well certainly not another person with an opinion. When you start a blog, its like any good essay, pick a few central themes and nurture them with attribution and reasoned analysis. But it is no small challenge to write about by far the most engaged, opinionated, funky, and cool neighborhood in the nation.

Willy Street Blog was born in March 2012, in the midst of the recall drive, but soon turned away from state politics as plenty of great voices were already speaking to the issue. In a city that features stupendous local reporting from numerous outlets, why should anyone bother to read some random blog?

The key is to really not care.

The Overpass Light Brigade pose with all the signs they brought to an overpass near Miller Park Saturday June 2, 2012. The various permutations were displayed to passing motorists. Photo by: Jenna Pope

The Overpass Light Brigade story was not the definitive account but was reposted by the right people and marked the highest single-day hits at 3,941. Photo by: Jenna Pope

To prime the pump, a few recall related items were written along with some long form pieces related to my youth such as “Making Sex Ed Like They Used To“, my personal connection to the Sarah Gonstead murder case and a  lemonade purveying terrorist.

From an early age the neighborhoods that currently define District 6 (MarquetteSchenk Atwood Starkweather Yahara and Darbo-Worthington) have all shared in the formation of my perspectives. It was important to make sure coverage was contiguous and not limited by perceptive or geographic barriers.

It was inevitable that the blog would gravitate to the public affairs of the neighborhood, where I feel it is most purposeful. Water quality has been a struggle in SASY, as has the development of Union Corners. Last year’s District 6 Alder race was congenial until a dark money mailer in the days before the election roiled residents; as did the potential closing of rail crossings.

Central Park is starting to grow as is the possibility of a grocery store on East Washington Avenue. Also unresolved are the fit and form of the Orton Park Festival and that empty parking lot at 722 Williamson street.

District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel Challenger Scott Thornton at candidate forum March 25, 2013

District 6 Alder Marsha Rummel  and Challenger Scott Thornton at a candidate forum March 25, 2013

A young man struggling with a failed relationship and addiction was shot by a neighborhood-based police officer struggling to find his own balance between policy and discretion.

The neighborhood has been off-balance ever since and last week the area sustained it’s second gun death in 17 months.

In searching for a niche, the blog covered all types of subjects including a review of an Elton John concert, a story about the mural on the side of the  Willy Street Co-op, live storytelling, tree-borne artists and of course the festivals.

OrtonWaterfrontLa Fete, and Willy Street Fair are faithfully chronicled, through the prism of my own historical experiences. In my mind that longer-toothed perspective is a central pillar of the blog’s relevancy.

As the blog evolved, my efforts turned to telling the stories of the neighborhood in a way other outlets didn’t have the space to tell. The phoenix-like success of the neighborhood over the last five decades is told in the back stories of the neighborhood kids and talented restauranteurs who have opened new eateries like Grampa’s PizzeriaOne Barrel BrewingStar Bar and  A Pig In A Fur Coat.

A Hawker-Siddeley HS125-400, similar to the one the author flew when the engine failed.

Scott Walker’s 2012 May Day speech gave me an opportunity to discuss the day one of my engines failed.

Sprinkled in amongst all of this is my other passion and paymaster, aviation. This career/hobby brings both high-level thrills like sharing the experience of flying in the rarest of airworthy bombers with the rarest of pilots and lows like losing a friend with whom I will miss sharing the air.

One of my favorite pieces was explaining the six degrees of Madison and musicians Otis Redding, part of Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Denver and JFK Jr.; and why airplanes weren’t to blame for their deaths.

In a past life I was a public radio reporter and feature stories was my love. Early in 2012 I concluded a stint managing an online news operation for a national non-profit which included managing a blog for a nationally-known aviation columnist. The blog portion proved especially fun as I once used photos I took of a civil war enactment to illuminate a discussion about weather fronts. With continued motivation to write, the “born and raised” credentials, and the all-important “lived elsewhere” perspective; Willy Street seemed like the best place to try this fancy blogging thingy for myself.

I have only a few central motivations, chief among them was to find the best way to contribute to the continued vibrancy of the neighborhood in the strong tradition of my parents and their contemporaries.

A few thank yous

Cultural reporting included Cycropia, a dance collective that uses flying apparatuses.

To the neighborhoods, people and institutions who have welcomed my reporting and trusted that the blog will present the chosen subjects fairly and with unique texture.

I am also appreciative of local reporters, the true “working press”, who have referenced Willy Street Blog in their own reporting. The collaboration with Dane101.com will be missed.

And thanks to my faithful volunteer copy editor as well as my web team for structural support and web design; you know who you are.

The mission of Willy Street Blog is to provide illumination that may  help in driving dialog. For those who feel this post is mostly self-congratulatory, it is slightly that.

But the blog is not a daily news site, nor the definitive source for neighborhood undercurrents. Additionally, it can be difficult at times to cover this dynamic neighborhood when employment related activities take place entirely on the east coast. So…

 …this post is also a call to others to join in writing about the place in which we love to live, work, and play.

Contact Willy Street Blog if you have stories, poetry, essays, haiku or an idea for a periodic column. The blog also welcomes photographic submissions. In celebration…have a drink on me.

 Top 5 stories on Willy Street Blog (number of hits)

1. Kjell Erik Anderson (1961-2012)

2. Overpass Light Brigade Epitomizes Recall Spirit

3. Grampa’s Pizzeria Is Open Late

4. Small Planes Don’t Kill People

5. A Terrorist Gave Me Lemonade

Two year stats:

51,463 Total visits
39,318 Unique Visitors
77,842 Page views
76% New visitors

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2 thoughts on “Willy Street Blog @ “2”

  1. I like what you do. It’s a huge commitment you’ve taken on and I appreciate it. I write periodically at betweentwolakesandahardplace.blogspot.com, more about things on the other side of E. Wash, but there is overlap. Congrats on two years!

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